Lisa: Virginia, darling...You and I have been working together for... how many years?
Virginia: Well, let’s see, it’s about... Ten or eleven?
Lisa: We did that corporate condo in Eastbrooke. That was one of the first jobs we worked on. That would have been at least ten years ago.
Virginia: Yeah, I’d say ’99. Maybe ’98, but I think ‘99
Lisa: Of course back then, and probably for years after that, everybody was doing much heavier finishes.
Virginia: Yeah, more textured finishes. Very, very old world-ish. More things like that. Remember we did the stone blocks going up the staircase and I even glazed over that torn paper wallcovering that was already in there. Then I made that white column look like old wood.
Lisa: That’s right. On the bar, she had that map of Italy, and you made it look like the map was sort of being uncovered. That was really cool. When we started out working together, we did a lot of glazes, although I was never into very heavy finishes at all. How many glazed walls do you think you have done?
Virginia: A gazillion! That customer you had, we did that whole room with glaze. We did that whole big, humongous room! All the way up the staircase and everything. My sister was petrified; she was praying the whole time I was up there because we had balanced ladders on top of paint cans... I will always remember that job.
Lisa: Well now that the heavier finishes are behind us, at least for now, what do you see? I think you see how technology is really playing into what you do. Technology today... it’s almost like the Jetson’s or something in fabrics and faux leather. And I love the way you’re doing your laser... well, not laser, but photography... Incorporating that...
Virginia: Right, right. There is just so much out there, it’s like every single day is a whole new challenge and a whole new way of looking at things and doing things. Especially with the fabrics. And hopefully we’ll be cutting our own patterns and everything else. So anybody that comes to me, if they have an idea or they’ve seen something, we can actually translate that and turn it into some kind of a wall finish or a fabric finish easily. So that is huge for us.
Lisa: One thing that you do, and I have been doing a good bit of for years, because I always love details and having things so custom, is stenciling on fabric, stenciling on a pillow, on a wall, on the back of a chair, just making it so one of a kind and custom. And I think you really enjoy that.
"That was a whole new experience and that is what I love about my job. Nobody ever wants the same thing, so you always have to be up on what’s new."
Virginia: Oh yeah, I love it, I absolutely love it! The big wall stencil that we just recently did, that was the first negative stencil I’ve ever done. In fact, I didn’t even know they existed. We had it custom made and worked negatively on the wall. That was a whole new experience and that is what I love about my job. Nobody ever wants the same thing, so you always have to be up on what’s new. That’s why I love coming in SummerHouse. I could just walk around for days going through all your wallpaper books and just seeing everything that is the latest and newest. I love it!
Lisa: You always tell me that when you look at my resource library it gives you inspiration, but of course I think a lot of people get inspired by what you do. Sometimes a wall finish, or looking at some of your samples... Just going into your studio and looking at all your samples on the wall, or your wood finishes... those will inspire me for a look. Sometimes I’ll start with a wall finish or start with a wood finish.
Virginia: And that is why we work together as well as we do, because you might have an idea, but it’s not something you and your customer can both like yet. So by seeing something else and saying “what if we take this finish here and put it over there on that, or we change that to this color...” You have all these fabulous ideas, and all I have to do is try to translate. I’m just busy trying to make it all work! Because I know the mechanics of how it all works, and I try to take what you see in your mind and make it happen over here on a finish.
Lisa: I may have an idea about something but I don’t know actually how to get it done. So that’s why, as a designer, I like working with someone that has your experience, and your knowledge of materials and paint, and what it can actually do.... that’s how you know how to translate, which is cool.
Virginia: The thing that makes it great is that you don’t know. So you have no parameters. So you say “what if we do this and this and this” which are usually things I’ve never thought of.
Lisa: That may be stretching you!
Virginia: Yeah, it does. It makes me think, “Well, how can I do that? How can I accomplish that?” So I love that part. That actually happened to me today. We have this, and we want to make it this, so how do we get there? It’s always a challenge! If you had told me 20 years ago that this is what I’d be doing, I probably would’ve told you that you’re out of your mind.
Lisa: Did you start off thinking you were going to do wall finishes?
Virginia: Well, I’m not sure exactly how it happened. I went to school for design, I did that, then I stopped doing that, got married and did all those things that you do, so I was on a break for years. Then when it got time to go back to work, I had seen other peoples work and it interested me. I went to the Manship house in college and I thought, “how did they make that marble look? How did they make that wood grain look?” That stuck in my head. I’ve always been more of a hands-on worker. I am not comfortable in high heels, I am not comfortable in clothes that are super tight. I like carrying around a ladder, you know. I’m much more hands on and really just love doing the work!
[caption id="attachment_687" align="alignright" width="234" caption="The stencil at the bottom of this drapery is also at the top on a smaller scale. Custom designed by Lisa Palmer for Strange Residence"][/caption]Lisa: Well I think what you’ve brought to our area, you know, is pretty remarkable. I think you’re just one of the best. EVER. So do you ever have people say that they are tired of this? What you do? Is it kind of going out of style?
Virginia: No, no! It can’t! It never will! Its been around for ten THOUSAND years. People were doing this in Egypt on cave walls. Its been going on it Italy forever, a gazillion years ago. Does it change? Yeah, it changes all the time.
Lisa: The modern finishes you are doing now are pretty remarkable.
Virginia: Oh, I love it. I love the sleekness of it. I love the patterns. I was so glad to hear wallpapers were coming back because it made me get up and work that much harder. I will not be defeated by wallpaper! I just love it!